Threads of 2016

Threads of 2016 December 30, 2016

For many reasons, 2016 was a year that most of us would like to forget. But there are some good things too that are worth an annual wrapup, and so we begin with…

Family Matters

In September, I became a parent. I wrote about how child-raising cries out for communal effort and the lessons humanists should take from that. I also listed 20 life lessons I’ll teach my son when he’s old enough to appreciate them.

Later in the year, some old family albums inspired me to contemplate the continuity of human generations and the very different world and time our ancestors dwelled in. And seeing pregnancy and birth up close inspired me to write about why human reproduction is ridiculous.

Diversity and Social Justice in Atheism

The quest to broaden the secular community continues. I wrote about how humanism is better and stronger when it acknowledges diversity, and criticized yet another clueless attempt to depict us as a parade of white male faces. When one prominent YouTube atheist spewed racist bile, I joined other Patheos bloggers in standing against him.

Catholicism Isn’t Liberal

I wrote about the ongoing evils of the Catholic church covering up for pedophiles and denying lifesaving medical care to women at religious hospitals.

These stories cast a cynical light on one Brooklyn church trying to give Catholicism a hip makeover. I argued that the church is nowhere near as progressive as it likes to seem, Pope Francis notwithstanding, and emphasized the point with a conservative archbishop urging liberals and moderates to leave.

The Future Economy

Is this as good as things will ever get? Have we reached the limits of economic growth, so that stagnation is all we have to look forward to? I’m skeptical, although it would help if the super-rich stopped throwing around useless money on status symbols that don’t add to anyone’s happiness.

I wrote about why manufacturing and coal mining jobs are going away, and why this is a good thing: it frees us from drudgery and liberates human brainpower to solve bigger problems.

A More Racist America

Despite its inglorious ending, the occupation of the Malheur wildlife refuge by white Christian terrorists should, in retrospect, have been a hint as to what was coming.

Bigotry in all its forms had a banner year, driven by Christian evangelicalism, as I noted in “The Church of Not Gay“. There’s a glimmer of hope, though, which is that corporate power is increasingly taking a stance against discrimination and can be an unlikely progressive ally.

End of an Empire

Overshadowing the rest of the year was the catastrophe of the 2016 presidential election. The election of a racist demagogue, even though he lost the popular vote, was like the death of the America I thought I knew. I sketched a pessimistic vision of the future in “Lord of Misrule“.

But there was buyer’s remorse on both sides of the aisle. Seemingly the day after the election, many Trump supporters realized with dread that he might take their health care away, just like he said he would. Too late, says I: you get what you vote for, like it or not, and blaming impersonal “politics” doesn’t absolve anyone of responsibility.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, and one group that deserves more than most is the white evangelicals who cast aside their concern for character as soon as partisan politics demanded it (although their beliefs have always been rooted in white supremacy).

Where do we go from here? There’s no magic bullet, but I had a few suggestions: Stand in solidarity with the downtrodden, including Muslims. To defeat racism, you must first acknowledge its existence. Last but not least, I wrote in “The Ashes” about the moral imperative in an unjust world.

The Clouded Climate Outlook

Until the election, it seemed as if we might have a chance to turn the corner on climate change. But regardless of who’s in office, conservation is an imperative because there won’t be any new earth if we despoil this one. That’s why I lashed out at the fossil-fuel companies that made sowing doubt their mission in the face of conclusive evidence.

Miscellaneous

In February, I marked Daylight Atheism’s tenth anniversary. I finished my marathon review of Atlas Shrugged and made plans to start on Ayn Rand’s other major novel, The Fountainhead.

Image credit: See-ming Lee, released under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

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